By Alexis Herr
Plimoth Planation offers the first outdoor living history exhibit where visitors can enter a Wampanoag Homesite and learn from tribe members about Native traditions. After venturing through a recreation of a 17th century English colony complete with staff reenacting colonial life, visitors walk through a recreation of Hobbamock’s home—a Pokonoket man who lived near the Plymouth Colony in the 1620s. There, the staff—of who all are either Wampanoag or from other Native nations—wear traditional Native clothes and speak from a modern day perspective about their cultural history and the future of the Wampanoag people.
Guests learn that prior to 1616, an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Wampanoag People in approximately 67 villages inhabited the coast reaching from Wessagusset (today called Weymouth, Massachusetts) to Cape Code and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The Wampanoag, which translates as “Eastern People,” “People of the Dawn,” or “People of the first Light,” lost thousands of their people between 1616 and 1618 to a devastating plague carried by European traders. Presently, the Aquinnah Wampanoag and the Mashpee Wampanoag are both federally recognized tribes and have around 5,000 members.
While there is definitely something bizarre about watching Nike clad tourists ask questions to Native staff members in traditional garb, it is absolutely a worthwhile experience. Visitors get to hear the Wampanoag language and learn, from the source, about the Wampanoag peoples’ rich culture and society.
If you are ever in the Massachusetts area, I highly recommend checking out Plimoth Planation.